On Sunday, December 15th at the Cathedral, Bishop Peter served the Rite of Consecration of New Antimins. As this is a rare service perfomed only by a bishop and exclusively within the altar, we provide this photoreport and narrative to explain the meaning of this rite.
An antimins is a rectangular cloth on which are depicted representations of Christ's descent from the Cross as well as the four evangelists. It is kept folded on the altar table and contains the relics of saints sewn into it. The word derives from the Greek antimension which means "instead of the table". It is not permissible to serve a Divine Liturgy without an antimins and it must be consecrated and signed by the reigning Bishop in advance. During emergencies, the Liturgy may be served with an antimins when an altar table is not available. When a Bishop visits a church or monastery under his jurisdiction, he typically enters the altar to inspect the antimins to ensure that it is properly cared for and in fact, the one that was blessed for use in that particular church.
The rite of blessing begins with much preparatory work. A "vessel" for the relics is fashioned out of a mixture of wax and incense in a small circular mold which is filled about half way and allowed to harden. Then small particles of the relics of saints are placed on the top of the semi-hardened wax mold and another several layers of wax are added to cover the relics. Once completely hardened, they are removed from the mold and placed on the diskos on the table of oblation. This is all typically done a day or so in advance of the service.
The rite of the consecration was served at 8 AM at the cathedral on Sunday morning. It began with several supplicatory prayers which the Bishop reads on his knees in front of the Royal Doors.
The antimins cloths are then blessed with a mixture of wine and rose water accompanied by the chanting or psalms.
Similar to the Great Entrance at the Divine Liturgy, the relics are then carried on the diskos from the table of olbation outside of the altar and back in throught the Royal Doors.
They are censed accompanied by the singing of "O Holy Martyrs".
The relics are annointed with myrrh and then placed in a small pocket which is sewn into the back of the antimins cloth and sealed therein.
It is customary to serve seven liturgies upon the newly consecrated antimins. When mulitple antimins are consecrated, the liturgy is served using them all stacked one upon another. Eleven antimins were consecrated for use in new missions and churches in the diocese. They contain tiny relics of martyrs: St Stephen, the first martyr; St Ignatius the Godbearer; St Vladimir, new-martyr of Kiev; a monk-martyr from the monastery of St Savva the Sanctified. The antimins are signed by the Bishop.